When Governor Jerry Brown released his proposed budget plan for the 2013-14 fiscal year, it included many changes in education funding. One of those changes, that moves adult school funding from K-12 school districts to community colleges, has many schools throughout the state fearing a loss of services to local students.
The Turlock Unified School District, which has the largest adult school program in Stanislaus County, fears that if the governor’s proposed budget passes and they lose the authority to operate adult education, thousands of students will be left without classes.
“We have about 2,200 students each semester go through our adult school program,” said Turlock Adult School Principal Alice Pollard. “Not only would this be a big loss to our community but also our students. We have students from all over Stanislaus County who attend our school and if this budget passes, we will lose a tremendous amount of students.”
Many K-12 districts abandoned or terminated adult education during the recession and budget crisis. Currently, TUSD still provides the largest adult school education program in the county, providing critical GED, ESL and vocational instruction to the adult community.
“TUSD has been extremely supportive in adult education and values its importance in our community,” said Pollard.
The Governor’s proposed budget has not only received mixed reaction from school districts, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is wary of the changes.
"I am concerned that severing the longstanding ties these programs have with K-12 districts could diminish access to classes that play a vital role in helping Californians receive the basic education they need to become productive citizens," Torlakson said.
Yosemite Community College District Board President Abe Rojas is also skeptical about having the community colleges responsible for adult education.
“It’s a double axe sword on our part,” said Rojas. “This proposal was brought to us out of nowhere and shocked us completely. We have enough on our plate going on with the community college system that adding adult education makes it more challenging for us.”
In response to state budget cuts over the past four years, California Community Colleges has reduced enrollment from 2.9 million to 2.4 million students, cut course sections by 24 percent and raised student fees from $20 to $46 per unit.
“I understand the position the TUSD is facing,” said Rojas. “They are living on borrowed time and until the May revise, we won’t know what will happen. If the Governor’s proposal does pass, I don’t know how motivated the students will be in driving all the way to Modesto to receive their education. The district will lose a lot of students.”
An Tuesday’s TUSD board meeting, trustees voted to lay off all classified employees from Turlock Adult School. By law, layoff notices must be issued prior to March 15.
“We have no choice,” said Superintendent Sonny DaMarto. “These decisions need to be made in order to protect our district.”